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Christian Filmmakers Case: Has Minnesota's Atty. Gen. Declared War on Religious Freedom and Free Speech? 

10-07-2019
Angel and Carl Larsen. (Image credit: Alliance Defending Freedom)
Angel and Carl Larsen. (Image credit: Alliance Defending Freedom)

Back in August, Christian wedding filmmakers Carl and Angel Larsen probably thought their three-year legal battle was over when the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the state of Minnesota could not force the Larsens to create wedding videos that violate their religious beliefs.

The 8th Circuit Court said, "the First Amendment allows the Larsens to choose when to speak and what to say." The court reversed Minnesota's chief federal judge's dismissal of their claims on the grounds of free speech and free exercise, according to the Star Tribune

However, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison and Human Rights Commissioner Rebecca Lucero said last week they will take the Larsens back to federal district court rather than appeal the appellate panel's decision. The pair believe the makeup of the 8th Circuit Court and the US Supreme Court would prevent them from winning the case. 

Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Jeremy Tedesco spoke out against the state attorney general's decision to further pursue the Larsens in federal district court.

"Carl and Angel won a great free speech victory at the 8th Circuit, which rightly affirmed that the government has no power to force people to express messages that violate their deepest convictions," Tedesco said in a statement. "This principle protects everyone. It means the state can't threaten the Larsens with jail time for declining to create a film promoting a view of marriage that violates their religious beliefs. It also prevents the government from forcing an atheist musician to perform at an evangelical church service or a Democratic speechwriter to write speeches for a Republican."

"Carl and Angel are pleased that they will soon be able to enter the marriage industry and produce films that are consistent with their beliefs," he continued. "We look forward to securing a final victory that prevents the state from using its power to banish people of faith from the public square."

While the litigation continues, Ellison and Lucero will not enforce the North Star State's Human Rights Act, but will allow the Larsens' Telescope Media group to continue to their "business of producing films promoting marriage exclusively as an institution between one man and one woman, and declining to create films that express ideas that conflict with their beliefs about marriage," according to the newspaper

In an op-ed published by the Star Tribune last week, Ellison and Lucero wrote they are fighting the 8th Circuit Court's ruling because they believe it "amounts to a license to discriminate against LGBTQ folks." They even accuse the Larsens of hiding behind their religious beliefs in an attempt to discriminate against LGBTQ people. 

Kaylee McGhee, the commentary writer for The Washington Examiner, says the Minnesota Attorney General's argument in his op-ed is remarkable because he admits one important fact: "Religious freedom has no place in a politically correct society."

In a commentary published on Oct. 5, McGhee noted, "And in doing so, Ellison declared war on not just religious freedom but on free speech. If creating a wedding video is a creative act of expression, as the 8th Circuit argued, then the right to create is wholly discretionary and protected by the First Amendment. How the Larsens choose to use their talents and who they offer their services to is their choice, not Ellison's, not Minnesota's."

"But because that choice could offend LGBT individuals," she added. "Ellison believes he has the right and the responsibility to get involved. Ellison's argument is entirely unconvincing, which is why he lost in court the first time and why he will lose again."

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